Things change. Like the way we dress, for example. Take the phrase ‘business casual.’ What does it mean to you? According to the Wikipedia page, business casual is:
- For women: A reasonable length skirt or trousers of a non-jeans material combined with a top (such as a dress shirt, or sweater set) is considered acceptable. An informal dress with appropriate skirt length is also acceptable.
- For men: A combination of collared shirt (such as a dress shirt or polo shirt), cotton trousers (such as khakis or blue, green, brown, or black trousers) with a belt. Jeans are not acceptable business casual attire. A blazer or business jacket can optionally be added.
- Unacceptable for either gender: rumpled or ripped clothing, T-shirts, miniskirts, underwear as outerwear, inappropriately revealing attire such as bare midriffs, and flip-flops. Many corporations also frown upon open-toed shoes and shorts.
Feels a bit dated, doesn’t it?
Some of the things that used to be unthinkable when it comes to dress are now totally acceptable in the workplace. Blue jeans, for example, have become increasingly more common. For the most part, no one looks horrible. Jeans work, as do the people who wear them.
Styles change, and so do their definitions. This increasingly relaxed approach to what we wear also applies to social personalities.
From Dress Code To Social Creditbility
We’re told that if we force ourselves to smile, we will feel happier and more friendly. When it comes to how we dress, we’re told we need to “look the part.” What if that “part” is significantly less formal than it used to be?
Being in business used to mean that we were on one of two teams. We were either the company or the customer, but never both. There was a clear line, and there were no shades of grey. Companies were almost like professional suit and tie factories with little to no obvious personality. Customers were numbers, and the brands were in charge.
Oh, how things change.
In the age of customer, business casual isn’t casual enough anymore. We need to start something new. Something called social casual.
Dressing Social Casual
Social casual isn’t as much a dress code as it is an attitude. If we really need to “look the part”, then maybe we need to relax the restrictive dress code a bit, too? In today’s market, the brand is no longer the boss. Customer service matters more than ever, and the need for a human, or socially casual, approach to business is absolutley vital. It is time to lift the veil, and prepare our businesses for a level of casual transparency that has never been there before.
We have to stop thinking our dress code doesn’t matter, because it does. Too formal says just as much about our brand as too casual. Blue jeans, v-neck t-shirts, and flip-flops are ubiquitous in the social world, and often work at making brands more human and approachable. The local bank may not be ready for this change, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from reaching our customers.
This doesn’t come naturally in a buttoned-up business world, but maybe if we change the way we dress, even just a bit, we can change the way we talk. I say, if social is the new normal, then flip-flops might be the new three-piece tuxedo.